SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — An Orange County judge ruled Monday that prosecutors could not use statements made in jail by convicted mass killer Scott Dekraai during the penalty phase of his trial.
Dekraai, 43, has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting his former wife and seven other people in a Seal Beach hair salon in 2011.
He is awaiting sentencing.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said investigators engaged in serious misconduct by using jail informants.
Dekraai’s attorneys claimed sheriff’s deputies give jailhouse snitches easy access to inmates to pump them for information that can be used to prosecute them, essentially violating their constitutional rights.
“We’re pleased that he found there was misconduct, but we think the remedy should have been a stronger one,” said Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who filed the 505-page motion earlier this year that led to the evidentiary hearing that began in mid-March.
O.C. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters, “I do agree with many of the findings of Judge Goethals.” But he added that while
some of his prosecutors were guilty of “errors,” there was no “intentional misconduct.”
Rackauckas said he was working with sheriff’s officials to reform the unit that handles jailhouse informants.
The judge also faulted prosecutors for failing to share information with defense attorneys and “repeated improper attempts” to get Dekraai’s psychiatric records. He stopped short of removing the D.A.’s Office from the case or taking the death penalty off the table.
The penalty phase of Dekraai’s trial was scheduled to begin this month, but will be postponed. Attorneys will back in court Sept. 12 to
discuss new dates.
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